Driving the Santa Monica Mountains
During my recent trip to LA, I stumbled across the Santa Monica Mountains completely by accident. I had a spare evening and thought I’d take a drive out to Malibu to the beach, as this surely was the thing to do in late May in Socal. However, sometimes the best laid plans just aren’t the best and what with the dreadful LA traffic plus the gloomy grey weather, I have to admit it wasn’t the best beach trip ever. I did get a great meal at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe though and sat on their private beach for a few minutes before the chilly weather started to get to me. On my way back I had planned to drive the way I’d come originally along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu and Santa Monica. But then I saw a sign for the ‘Santa Monica Hills Information Centre’, so I took a left down Mulholland Highway instead.
I never actually made it to the elusive Information Centre, but I’m so glad I took this turn as the views were absolutely breathtaking; the clouds broke for about an hour during my drive across the Santa Monica Mountains until I made it back to Downtown LA. I’d been pretty disappointed with the Pacific Coast Highway drive earlier – it’s one of those US roads that’s hyped up so much you’re expecting something truly amazing. For me that would mean driving at a decent speed virtually uninterrupted, so I hadn’t anticipated about 10 miles of traffic light junctions.
The road itself is just winding enough to be interesting but without being so challenging to drive that you miss out on the spectacular mountain views around each corner. The speed limit is 45mph for most of the way once you’re well and truly into the hills, which can feel a little fast at times. As traffic was fairly quiet I tended to take it a bit slower to soak it all in. There are also a lot of lay-bys for you to pull over and take some photos, but don’t forget to put the camera away for a moment to actually enjoy the view with your own eyes!
This alternative route I took back to Downtown LA from Malibu didn’t actually seem to take significantly longer than the Pacific Coast Highway. Although if you’re driving this route then definitely allow extra time for stopping. It took me just under two hours to get back from Malibu, including photo stops. If you’re in the LA area, this is definitely not one drive to miss!